Disclaimer: I don't own In Plain Sight, but writing fanfic is a balm for that wound!
Author's Note: This idea just came to me and I had to run with it. For story purposes I've made the presumption that Mary and Marshall are about the same age, which is probably not true but has not as yet been directly stated to the best of my knowledge. Obviously this story is AU, but it was a fun idea and I hope y'all enjoy it! For the record, Mary has quite a pottymouth. Are you really that surprised? =P
Fish Out of Water
Marshall Mann heaved a sigh as he shuffled down the street, backpack slung over one shoulder. The September morning held a slight chill in the air, although he suspected the warmth of fading summer would return by midday with accompanying humidity. He'd lived here for a month now, so he'd begun to get used to the weather.
And that's about all I've gotten used to, he thought with a huff as he scuffed his foot on the sidewalk. The toe of his boot caught on a section of concrete uplifted by a tree root and he stumbled, the backpack slipping easily from his slender shoulder. The boy wobbled, found his balance, and looked around to make sure no one had seen him as an embarrassed blush made his face burn. That was the last thing he needed, to be seen making an idiot of himself on the first day of school.
It would be hard enough to make friends as it was. Marshall didn't know anyone here. He was going into his senior year of high school, which should have been the time of his life, having been scooped right out of the happy microcosm of his existence only to be plopped smack in the middle of New Jersey. And what was the motivating force behind this sudden and disastrous relocation? Seth Mann. The Mann himself, as the man himself often liked to remark with a laugh. Oh, but not a happy laugh, Marshall grumbled silently, more like an egotistical chortle. Or perhaps a guffaw laden with schadenfreude.
In any case, the career of the Almighty Seth Mann had intervened sharply in the young man's life, which while not idyllic, had at least been his own. And now, here he was, making his way by pavement to his new high school feeling every inch a dork. For one thing, he was walking, and he had a sense that this might mark him as lame from the outset. Now there was an irony, a person walking being labeled as lame. But it would surely happen. With the move, the truck he'd learned to drive on, and of which he had possibly been about to become the owner, had instead been sold off, too much of a bother to take with in this bold new advancement of Seth's pursuit of masterful dominion over the entire Marshal Service.
And, circumstantially, all things Marshall get ground underfoot. He hefted the backpack onto both shoulders. He was sure he looked like more of a nerd that way, but it was hard to keep the backpack on just one shoulder. It was probably bad for his back anyway, if his mother had anything to say on the matter. Backpack on both shoulders, button-down shirt that his mom insisted made him look nice for his first day, cowboy boots that he had loved back home but which he now felt made him look stupid and hickish. He was tall but not in a good way, gangly and not even close to filled out, and his hair was carefully arranged in a way that he hoped would look fresh but fell a bit short of the mark. He felt like the most uncool cow in line for the slaughter. Or maybe he was fresh meat about to be thrown to the lions. Fresh meat with lame hair.
He shook his head. He would just have to suck it up. It would only be a year, after all, until he could escape to college. He didn't even really need people to like him, if it was only a year. Except… senior prom.
Marshall heaved another sigh. It wasn't like he'd had a ton of friends back home, but there had been a few, and people at least knew him generally… and he'd had a fairly decent prospect for a prom date lined up. Katinka. Granted, back home, he'd been considered something of a geek and an outsider, more so in that some of the other kids felt that his father's profession made him likely to be something of a narc. But as an exchange student, Katinka hadn't fit in that well either, and they'd found each other. Their fledgling friendship had been on the verge of becoming a fledgling relationship when Marshall had been so callously uprooted. He'd almost had an actual girlfriend, as opposed to merely having friends who were female, a suspicious amount of whom wanted help with their homework.
Well, so much for that. Outcast though exchange students were, Katinka was pretty, and more than a little bit smart, and Marshall would bet money that she'd have a new boyfriend inside of the first week of school. He wouldn't be so lucky; exchange students were the exception to the rule. New students were untouchable, and he had the feeling that would be more true here than back home. The school gate loomed before him, and he hesitated, contemplating the nightmare he was about to face.
He became aware of the sound of feet pounding on the pavement behind him, and before he could turn, someone crashed into him with a grunt. He lurched forward but managed not to fall. The instigator of the collision pushed past him and he caught sight of a rough-looking blonde girl, with a ponytail and shaggy bangs overhanging her eyes, wearing an ill-fitting leather jacket. Their eyes met, and a frisson of intimidation tingled through him. Her eyes had a feral quality to them, like a wild animal.
"Watch where you're going, beanpole," she snapped as she jogged toward one of the classrooms.
Marshall sighed once more as the bell rang. So this is how it's going to be here. He trudged toward the office to pick up his class schedule.
The morning's classes had passed uneventfully. The teachers seemed to like him, which wasn't a bad thing, but it wasn't necessarily a good thing either. Marshall had been forced to take whatever undesirable seat remained in each of his classes, for he had, of course, arrived slightly late to each of them because he had no idea which classrooms were where. No one had talked to him much, but by then he felt it was better to be ignored than to be singled out, at least until he had his footing. And as far as footwear went, the boots would have to go. No one had said anything to him directly, but he'd noticed whispers and snickering as people cast sideways glances at his feet.
Dismissed from class by the lunch bell, Marshall made his way for the bathroom. It took him a few minutes to find one, and the one he found was at a far corner of the campus near the science building. As soon as he entered, his nostrils were bombarded with the smell of cigarette smoke. He was startled to see the blonde from that morning leaning against the sink. He turned back to check the door… it was definitely the boys' bathroom.
"What are you doing in here?" he asked, regarding her suspiciously.
"What does it look like, numbnuts?" her voice dripped sarcasm.
"I might have guessed you'd be the type to smoke in the bathroom," he drawled, "but I thought for sure you were a girl. I guess I was wrong."
"Whatever, dipstick," she grumbled. "Look, no one uses this bathroom, like, ever. The plumbing's fucked up or something so the toilets overflow all the damn time. That and it's really out of the way."
Marshall nodded slowly, then jerked his head in the direction of the cigarette. "You really shouldn't smoke those, you know."
"You want me to put this out in your ass?" she waved the cigarette. "You're not my dad. Asshole."
"Good guess, but my name isn't Asshole. It's Marshall."
The blonde rolled her eyes. "Why do you think I would give a shit what your name is?"
"Maybe because you're the only person who's said two words to me today," Marshall replied with a shrug.
"So you're introducing yourself to someone who called you an asshole just because no one else bothered to talk to you at all? Jesus. That's pathetic."
"Any more pathetic than smoking in an abandoned bathroom alone?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah. Way more pathetic," she scoffed. She stubbed her cigarette out on the sink and headed for the door.
"Nice boots, Marshall," she smirked over her shoulder on the way out.
She's right, he rebuked himself silently. You are totally pathetic.
After the lunch bell, Marshall made his way to English class. He'd been looking forward to it because it was a subject he enjoyed more than most, and he enjoyed most subjects at least a little. Of course, he had trouble finding the room, and of course, there was only one seat left… and there she was. The blonde. Sitting next to the only empty seat. Marshall groaned inwardly. The teacher waved him to sit down.
"High school," the teacher launched into what sounded to Marshall like a prepared speech, probably one he gave every year, "is training for life. Some of you," the teacher beamed at a handful of students in the front row, "will go on to college, and will lead lives filled with great accomplishments. Others of you… Miss Shannon…"
The blonde jumped slightly at the name the teacher emphasized. That must be her, Marshall realized. He felt sympathy wash over him as the class giggled and the blonde's face flushed crimson. She looked down at her desk as the teacher continued.
"Others of you will enter into the real world with only those skills you apply yourself to learn in the time that remains to you here. Obviously that will serve some of you better than others," the teacher went on, a smug expression playing rather unflatteringly across his face. Marshall felt indignation burning within him; he was angry that a teacher would belittle a student like that in front of the class.
"How do you know?" he blurted out before he could stop himself.
"Excuse me?" the teacher turned to him, a menacing glint in his eye.
"How can you know what she'll make of herself, or what anyone else here will, for that matter?" Marshall was terrified but he couldn't stop; once he'd let his righteous indignation have free rein, he found it difficult to reel it back in.
"You're new here, Mr.… what is it, again?" the teacher asked, his tone dangerous.
"Mann. Marshall Mann," Marshall replied steadily.
"Mr. Mann. You're new to this school, so there are some matters of which you are obviously unaware," the teacher broke into a sharkish grin that only served to increase Marshall's anxiety. "As your teacher, it is my job to educate you. As I was about to explain to the class, sixty percent of your grade will be weighted in the form of a term paper, on which a failing grade will result in failure to pass my class and therefore failure to graduate. This is to prepare you for the level of work which will be expected of you in college. But there is another aspect to this paper, one designed to train you all for the possibilities you will face in the real world. Unlike a college term paper, which is written by you alone, this will be a joint effort composed with the aid of a partner. You will find that your grade, and indeed your very future, will depend upon your partner, and theirs will depend upon you."
Marshall's heart sank as the teacher spread his hands broadly and addressed the class.
"I believe Mr. Mann here has just chosen his partner. What he will learn of Miss Shannon's abilities as a student… and as a person… remains to be seen." The class tittered again and the teacher went on to explain the rest of his syllabus. Marshall pressed his palm to his forehead.
"You really shouldn't have done that," the blonde murmured without looking up.
"Yeah," Marshall replied in resignation. "I know."
A/N: There you have it, the first chapter of Fish Out of Water. Let me know what you think! =)